I’m Melissa, and I’m not so different or un-relatable from the everyday everybody. While I do have a mind that dissociated into distinct parts, each with feelings, awareness, opinions and identities of their own, the dissociative piece that I am could compete with anyone’s normalcy; hands down.
Alters, or Headmates, might sound like anything but the norm, though there’s nothing more relatable than the vulnerability for the mind to break under duress. I wouldn’t describe being multiple as broken though. Our mind bends in new ways, with more of us now to help each other mend.
You might notice that in some circumstances, I refer to myself as I, while other times, as We, or, other parts of Us as They or Them. Is this inconsistent or contradictory? It depends on how you see it. I, They, Them, You, Us, We… It all runs with a basic, simple everyday rule that’s not so hard to grasp.
I will be discussing what that rule is, elaborating on how it applies to me and my Headmates, splashing in a few intriguing stories, and coming to an end of the episode with a frightening realization on their profound, potential implications.
Stick around to hear the conclusion that sent me in waves of fear, but then, relief, hope, and perhaps, somewhat of a chance toward healing.
If you give us a listen and you want to find out more, you can find us over at thebagsystem.com
(Melissa) “I have alternate personalities”
(Skittle) “It’s really funny!”
(Melissa) “But what if none of this is real?”
(Imitation of Therapist) “How do you feel?”
(SpitFire) “Can she just get out of my face?!”
(Melissa) “What if I’m not real?”
*** End Intro Reel ***
Referencing oneself or ourselves when having alternate identities can be compared to when the regular Joe is in a group of people. If you are in that room, then you could say things like, “I am there with Them.” If you go out the door at the same time as Them, you might say, “We are going out the door.” As you have your own sense of self and They have Theirs, then They are Them, and together, We are Us.
In a situation like with Dissociative Identity Disorder, if that room of individuals are in one mind, then there’s no way to not walk out together, but we do so with each our own sense of self. “I went out the door with Them,” or “We went out the door Together.” I can say, “I wanted to stay, but They wanted to go, so We left, which was hard for a few of us.”
It’s complicated to share a mind. It can be confusing, even to us who experience it. It can be comforting in certain circumstances to have others within to communicate with, or to feel their feelings or sense their thoughts, especially if a bond is positive.
Other times, it can be upsetting and frustrating to never have alone time, never have something all for yourself, or to have the ability to fully make your own choices without impacting anyone else. There’s a certain freedom lost when we are multiple. It’s not fair for any of us.
I personally go from appreciating my situation, to becoming sad, then angry, then so tired of it that I deny it could even be real at all, so that I can pretend that I’m alone.
I can’t deny it though. I am not alone. As much as I’d like to pretend, or to go back to before I knew, their presence is growing stronger and more obvious. If it’s something that I can’t escape, perhaps it’s something that I can embrace.
I recently spent a few weeks in strong denial, but the more that I acted like I was alone in my mind, the more there were signs that I was not.
I’ve been pushing myself to an intense and near ridiculous degree, which took a toll on everyone in the system. I overworked on several projects; going far into detail, which took up all my time. It was exhausting, but I decided I would tolerate it. I did not consider how it might impact others of us.
Last week, I heard a young voice inside saying, “I don’t like this. I want to do something else.”
My reaction was at first to feel stunned, but I then realized the impact of my neglect of them. I was hesitant to stop working on my projects, but I pulled back and took a much needed break.
I began communicating with my Headmates again. I spoke to them in our mind; like the concept of a prayer made in thoughts. I reconnected and was rewarded with a sweet and warm return. I say this, because the next day, I heard the same young voice asking me, “Melissa. Will you talk to me?”
I felt moved; and touched that this part of us wanted me to speak to them. I was glad that my reaching out was appreciated to the point where this Headmate wanted to connect even further.
Other Headmates seem impacted as well. I once heard an adult, female voice in the mind, say, “There’s a place of change in your heart. Are you happy, Melissa?”
We’ve been more in tune this last week. Things are developing in a strong direction where we can better access each other, like barriers are falling.
We came down with a cold this week. With all the sniffing, the runny nose, the red, irritated face, I decided to plug my nose with tissue to soothe the aggravation of symptoms. I know; super attractive…
I wasn’t considering this to be an issue, but other parts of us weren’t so fond of my choice.
A few of us speak only in French. I heard a voice inside in the French language saying, “Enlève ca de la narine de mon nez.” Or translated in English, “Take that out of the nostril of my nose.”
I was taken aback at first, but found it a bit humorous in how it was said. I was soothed by the plugged nose that avoided further irritation, so I decided to ignore the request to remove it.
Later that day, while I was overwhelmed and fixated on my own inner storm, I was surprised by the young voice again, who said, “It really hurts inside my nose.”
I didn’t understand what hurt, but when I stopped fixating on my anxieties and being distracted by them, I realized that my nose actually did hurt quite a lot from the stuffed tissue. I was feeling a mix of feelings to this. I found it intriguing that this Headmate felt existing pain that I didn’t even realize we were experiencing until I calmed down enough to feel it for myself. We were in the same body with the same nose, but somehow, only parts of us felt, or were aware of the impact.
It makes sense, because while I was very distracted from the pain, this Headmate was not. The same body, with different levels of ability to tolerate the same sensation, or different perspectives on the experience.
Another thing that impacted me in perspective, was that while I say, this is my nose, like it belongs to me, they say it the same way. In both instances with the French Headmate and with the young English Headmate, they referred to our nose with the term “My.”
I thought that was interesting because, while I realized that we shared a body, I hadn’t considered that one nose could belong to us as a whole, while at the same time, to each one of us individually. It sounds obvious, but there was a time when I thought my nose was just mine.
This sparked compassion for the pain this young Headmate felt and how I was responsible for it, so I was moved to disregard what I felt soothed me, to then face the sniffles once again.
I became more mindful of the impact my actions have on the others. I don’t mind enduring, but I wouldn’t want to force anyone else to endure difficulty; even if that other individual is a part of the same mind. I’m more mindful now that just because I have my personal limit or tolerance, it doesn’t mean they have the same one. I also realize, even when I don’t sense my Headmates near the surface, they are still impacted by what happens to our body.
We are together, but individual and separate, while also meshing together in some ways. For example, even though Skittle might be too young to know how to spell correctly, she is able to reference my knowledge in order to write with greater precision. She gets confused about how to type a certain word, but stops, and it’s like she looks into my thoughts for the answer.
Another example of this meshing is how John Q’s IQ is above my own, but when he is near the surface, but not switched to be in control, I am able to access his ability to grasp information and learn more profoundly. I absorb his passionate intrigue regarding information and I feel it like it’s mine. While otherwise, when feeling separate from him, I don’t share this high interest.
My Headmates and I have begun sharing thought paths lately, which is new and a bit startling and confusing. What I mean by that is that usually, when I hear myself think, it’s different than how it sounds when they speak in the mind. Like I hear their words in speaking to me like voices, but they are distinct from thoughts. I found recently, we have thought insertions where I am processing my own concerns in my normal path of consciousness, as most would, but that flow becomes interrupted, or combined, with the thoughts of my Headmates. It’s like more than one data stream where the walls between them collapse and they find themselves mixed in the same stream. They are unrelated, but though, now combined, they are still separate, in a sense.
I sense the thought in a similar feel to what a normal thinking process feels like, except that I did not will them into being. It did not belong to me, nor did I know what the inserted thoughts were referencing. I understood the words, but I had no context to grasp them because their unrelated stream was fragmented. I didn’t know what their thoughts referred to, because I wasn’t the one to think them.
This could be considered another example, like the way some of us feel pain that others don’t. In this scenario, they notice different things about our surrounding than I do. I can be unaware and thinking of my own issues and complexities, while they are simultaneously processing theirs, and our thought paths intertwine.
I do find this synergy quite interesting and it baffles me. I had no idea this was even how we were functioning with co-occurring streams that simply never crossed until recently. It’s been somewhat of a mystery, even as I’ve come to know more and more about myself and us as a whole. I thought I was alone, despite some obvious indications of multiplicity that I took to be simple quirks.
I’ve felt in the dark about my own functioning. I’ve known since late 2019 that I have Headmates, but there was so much that I couldn’t access or connect to.
The more I apply continued attempts at communication and breaking barriers, the more there is slow progression to a certain awareness, as well as to this new form of meshing.
As I’m thinking of this now, I’m growing a bit uneasy in wondering if we are in the process of some form of integration. It does frighten me, as it frightens them as well.
While it can be frustrating, confusing, unnerving, and sometimes upsetting to live as multiple, we get to be unique individuals within that multiplicity; the same as would anyone in a normal room of people. I don’t imagine that if a person was in a crowded room and they were told they would all meld together and become one person, that they would desire this at all.
While in certain ways, each person remains in some aspect within the amalgamated end result of integration, it feels like the end of something that belonged to each of them. It feels like a loss. It’s frightening to think I wouldn’t be me, or that Maggie, or Katie, or any of us would have to face losing themselves as they are to become something else.
There is no right or wrong in terms of when a system chooses to integrate. The choice depends on what is best in each circumstance. For my system, we want to remain ourselves. If we all become part of an un-fragmented and whole individual, who would that person be? They wouldn’t really be me, or Maggie, or any of us. That person would contain aspects of all of us, but they wouldn’t be me, or them, anymore.
While the I’s, the We’s, the They’s, or the Us, are a certain complication, it’s who we are. It’s not some form of wishing to be in pieces or unwell. We wish to be well, functional, and be ourselves. Together; individually.
The bottom line is, we are not broken, and as difficult as it can feel, we are in this together. While the military expression is “We leave no man behind,” we can say, we will leave no man unattended, disregarded, or uncared for.
A part of me certainly was broken and in pieces; not due to multiplicity, but to the distain I grew toward myself. I would never have treated anyone else the way i treated myself; feeling that, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just me, and I don’t matter.”
Realizing I have Headmates was in a sense, the one, most powerful element that could put me back together. I say this, because while I see them as separate from me, considering their wellbeing while we are all parts of a whole is the closest I’ve come to self-love in my entire existence. If I am conscientious to treat them with value, then by extension, for the first time, I am treating myself like I would anyone else; with value.